The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 8, 2010

ConsCom begins Benfield 40B wetlands review

Twenty-six units of affordable housing are to be located on Lot 1 of
the town’s Benfi eld Land.

At its December 17 meeting the Conservation Commission (ConsCom) opened the first segment of its public hearing on the Benfield Land 40B project at 273 South Street. The ConsCom will evaluate the impact of the proposed 26 residential rental units on wetlands and water resource areas. Though the Carlisle Wetlands Bylaw does not apply, the affordable housing project is fully subject to the state Wetlands Protection Act.

The applicant, Neighborhood for Affordable Housing (NOAH), has requested waiving the town’s portion of the Wetlands Protection Act filing fees, which are intended to cover the costs of reviewing development projects. The ConsCom noted the substantial amount of time (primarily the Conservation Administrator’s) that this project will continue to require. The Selectmen make the fee decision because this is a 40B project.

Mark Beaudry, a civil engineer from Meridian Associates, formally presented the plan on behalf of NOAH. In addition to the dwelling units, the project includes access, parking, stormwater management, water supply well, septic system and associated work.

The two-and three-story housing would be located on Parcel 1 of the town-owned property, the area closest to South Street. The well and septic leach field are proposed beneath Parcel 4, the conservation area at the rear of the site.

Spencer Brook, which runs under South Street and along the current access road is a perennial stream and thus has a regulated 200-foot riverfront area. Beaudry indicated that NOAH and Meridian are using a low-impact-development approach and the project would disturb less than ten percent of riverfront. The open areas around the dwelling units would be planted with meadow vegetation; there would be no turf grass or irrigation system. Beaudry said they are still working to minimize the amount of land disturbed for stormwater management areas.

Substantial area would be devoted to a two-way U-shaped driveway with two access points from the road. Beaudry reported that the Fire Department wants a 24-foot-wide driveway that would fit eight to ten emergency vehicles including tank trucks. This is wider than South Street and only two feet narrower than Concord Street.

Septic tanks would be located near the gate leading to the conservation land and hundreds of feet of pipe would run from the construction site to the well and leach field areas. Meridian proposes a Presby sewage disposal system which, because of enhanced effectiveness in treating wastewater, is smaller and has less land-altering impact. (See article below.)

When Beaudry completed his presentation, Commissioner Tricia Smith pointed out that allowing conservation land to be used for a residential water supply and waste disposal would be precedent-setting for the town. It “harkens back” to other proposals to use protected land for development purposes.

Commissioner Tom Brownrigg noted that the conservation restriction on Parcel 4 says that the septic system shall not alter existing contours, and observed that no drawing was provided with the plan. He told Beaudry: “You are saying ‘Trust me.’” (An earlier plan showed extensive terracing around the proposed leach field.)

The project is located in both Priority and Estimated Habitat for rare species thus requiring review by the state Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. (Again see ConsCom Shorts in this issue.) The Blue-spotted Salamanders on the site need to traverse the proposed leach field when moving from the vernal pool where they breed to the adjacent woods where they overwinter. Conservation Administrator Sylvia Willard said she believes the project meets state guidelines requiring a wildlife habitat analysis.

When asked about use of the area for agriculture after the well and leach field were in place, Beaudry said the septic field area is tillable – that the pipes are a foot below soil level. This shallow depth raised some eyebrows. He said fertilizers would be a problem. About 2.6 acres around the proposed water supply well would be off limits to agriculture.

The ConsCom indicated there were a number of other concerns. Willard offered to explain these to Meridian, prior to the next meeting. The public hearing was continued until January 14 at 8:30 pm. ∆

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